Nonprofit hopes to save Haggett building

Posted:  Thursday, April 20, 2017 - 8:30am
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Midcoast Conservancy wants MDOT officials to consider improving this vacant area the state now owns as part of the Haggett Garage property. PHIL DI VECE/Wiscasset Newspaper

Midcoast Conservancy hopes to save the 1916 Haggett Garage building on Water Street from demolition. Those feelings were shared by 25 or so Wiscasset-area residents attending an open house hosted by the nonprofit April 19.

Jody Jones, executive director of the conservancy, said she’s hopeful a compromise can be worked out. MDOT plans to tear down the building for a parking lot as part of its $5 million Wiscasset traffic improvement project. Traffic officials say the 30-space parking lot is needed because the project will eliminate all parking on Main Street when sidewalks are widened and traffic signals are added. The conservancy has leased the building from CEI in Brunswick since January 2016.

Ali Stevenson, the conservancy’s communications director, thinks the Haggett property is large enough to accommodate both a parking lot and the building.

“We’re hoping they’ll consider leasing the building to us and just take the parking area,” Stevenson said, pointing from the second-floor fire escape to a sloping, unpaved area alongside the building.

Twenty cars were parked there for the open house, but Stevenson believes if it were paved and improved, the area could easily accommodate another four to six vehicles. She said mproving the present lot would be less expensive than tearing down the building and other costs associated with its removal, and the state would further benefit from revenues earned from leasing the building.

Although the conservancy has only occupied the building for 15 months, Stevenson said she and other employees feel a close connection to the downtown community.

“We were a part of the Summer Art Walk and this past Christmas served as the location for the first Holiday Market Place. We’ve also partnered with the Wiscasset Community Center,” she said.

Jones said the organization wants very much to stay in Wiscasset. She said the group toured other locations including the CEI-owned Port Wiscasset building on the opposite side of the street.

“This (Haggett) building offers us the space and amenities we need and also the most opportunity for developing new community partnerships,” she said.

During a question-and-answer session, several attendees suggested asking MDOT to take a second look at purchasing an abutting wood-framed building north of the Haggett building. The owners had expressed a willingness to sell the building but MDOT apparently wasn’t interested.

Jones hopes others who want to save the Haggett building will let their voice be heard. The best way to do so, she said, was to contact MDOT officials directly and let their state representatives know of the concern for sparing the building from demolition. She suggested they might also plan to attend the upcoming MDOT informational meeting.

MDOT recently filed an eminent domain notice to take the property and has settled with CEI, an MDOT spokesman has said. A CEI spokeswoman has said the Brunswick-based nonprofit got $408,000 for it.

The conservancy has posted information about the Haggett building at www.midcoastconservancy.org. The conservancy was formed in January 2016 as a result of the merger of the Sheepscot Valley Conservation Association, Damariscotta Lake Watershed Association, Hidden Valley Nature Center and Sheepscot Wellspring Land Alliance. The organization promotes land and water conservation and outdoor learning, and maintains a number of area land preserves.